So how big (long and wide) is a regulation football field, exactly?
Here’s a primer on how the dimensions play out at every level, from high school football to the NCAA and on up to the NFL.
There are two constants, across the level of competition: 120 yards (360 feet) of length and 53 1/3 yards (160 feet) of width. The playing field is 100 yards long, with a 10-yard-deep end zone on each side. In total, a football field covers 57,600 square feet, or the equivalent of 1.32 acres. Hash marks measure each of the 100 yards, with a yard line at every five yards and the field number marking every 10 yards (on both sides, near the sidelines).
Those hash marks were first seen on professional football fields as a result of the first rule changes in 1933, marking one of the first major deviations from college fields.
Each play starts on the nearest hash marks to the end of the previous play — if said play ended outside the hash marks, including on the sideline. Thus, with less space between sets of hash marks and more space between the hashes and the sidelines, there is much more real estate for ball carriers to turn and maneuver around defenders.
The width, similarly, is the same for high school, college and NFL fields. The only variable that changes by level is the distance between the two sets of hash marks. For high school football, the hash marks are 53 feet, 4 inches apart. That separation decreases to 40 feet in college and shrinks to 18 feet, 6 inches in the NFL.
When it comes to the goal posts, the crossbar is 10 feet high and the posts on either side are another 20 feet tall, bringing the total height to 30 feet. In both NCAA and NFL play, the goal posts are 18.5 feet apart, while high school goal posts are 23 feet, 4 inches apart.
For over 40 years after those initial rule changes took effect, the goal posts were situated on the goal lines. Finally, in 1974 after scores of — and which resulted in — collisions, the goal posts were moved to the back of the end zones (in Canada, goal posts still sit on the goal lines).
Some changes to the field and its dimensions have been minor and have gone relatively unnoticed, while others have been more revolutionary. Each change, regardless of magnitude, has been part of the sport’s continual effort to enhance player safety, improve the game and maximize the fan experience.